Host city | Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki, being the gateway from the Mediterranean to the Balkans and Central Europe, has historically been the centre of great developments and processes. Dating back to the Hellenistic Times, Thessaloniki was founded in 315 B.C. on the site of earlier prehistoric settlements. The Hellenistic City developed an increasingly important role as part of the Kingdom of Macedonia and later on the first Roman Tetrarchy. Byzantine and ottoman times in the city's history were of great importance for the formation of its identity: being the second city of the Byzantine Empire, it played a leading spiritual and artistic role in the Balkans, frequently taking the lead in the secular and theological thinking of the age. The city prospered as a trade and business centre of the Ottoman Empire, and was defined by the multi-ethnic populations that resided and set out in the area. Thessaloniki was historically known for its prominent communities of Jewish, Turks, Serbs, Bulgarians that lived together with the Greeks for centuries.
In the beginning of the 20th century, this canvas was enriched by the advent of Greek refuge populations from Asia Minor that settled here and diffused new cultures, ethics, customs, and tastes in society, a period when Thessaloniki was incorporated in the Greek State (1912). The contemporary image of Thessaloniki is a natural consequence of that period: the newcomers became the media for the contemporary future and Thessaloniki prospered again in social, economical and cultural terms. Thessaloniki has historically been a melting pot of diverse cultures, religions and traditions. The city's multi-cultural heritage and identity has always been reflected in local residents' every day life, being either natives, immigrants, or a large student community of youngsters.
Thessaloniki, sometimes covered by the thick mist, sometimes stormed by the heady wind "Vardaris", yet always defined by its flairs and flavours, is nowadays an economic and cultural center, a vibrant focal point for the Balkans and a geographic landmark between the Eastern & Western Civilization. Although penetrated by stories of joy and sorrow of the past, today the city enjoys a vibrant urban life, enriched by the largest student community in Greece, the increasing cultural production by numerous museums, organisations and smaller urban collectives and finally by the exquisite physical location that through time has enabled openness and inspiration.
Today and on the way to 2012, the city's centenary, Thessaloniki attempts to identify itsellf again, through urban movements, cultural activity, and revitalisation of the urban tissue, that we may say characterize the renewed city's profile.
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